Selecting A Thermoplastic
For production of finished goods, there are no shortcuts. Material stability and long-term performance is paramount. So, you will carefully consider the mechanical, thermal, electrical and chemical properties and any changes that result from aging or environmental exposure. However, because parts created with an FDM machine share many of the characteristics of the molded thermoplastics, you can leverage what you already know.
For all other applications, including functional prototypes, patterns, tooling and manufacturing aids, the selection process is much simpler. The key is having an understanding of the characteristics that make each FDM material unique. What you will consider are the following qualities:
- FDM machine availability
- Support material type
To pick the right material, seek the best combination of these material traits while placing priorities where they belong. As you review the material options, you may find the choice is simple because of a critical performance standard (e.g. chemical inertness) or personal preference (e.g. no-touch post processing).
All FDM materials have a lot in common. Each material is similar in terms of loading and building parts, office compatibility, and is safe enough to handle with no protective gear. Also, parts produced by each material are dimensionally stable and durable enough for demanding applications.